Posts Tagged ‘Avalon Hill’

CFR Race #3: Monaco Grand Prix at Imperium Games

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Eight drivers raced in the Monaco Grand Prix on Friday, November 10, 2017, at Imperium Games in Wixom, Michigan, using the board game rules for Championship Formula Racing (CFR). When the race was over, Mike Cook won the race, after he started in pole position. Gary Sturgeon finished 2nd, and Garry Kaluzny managed to hold onto 3rd place from Greg Lim.

The real track diagram of the Monte Carlo track.

The real track diagram of the Monte Carlo track.

Although the new CFR game comes with a game track of the Monte Carlo course, it is not accurate at all, so we used (as a basis) the version of that track that was published with one of the old Avalon Hill Accessory Pack tracks, although we modified the Avalon Hill track by adding the nouvelle chicane.

The Monte Carlo track we used to race on.

The Monte Carlo track we used to race on.

Surprisingly, the bidding for pole position was fairly sane, with the winning bid by Mike Cook being of 3 Wear and 1 Skill markers, for a total bid of 3.5. Two drivers (Jack Beckman and Gary Sturgeon) bid 3.0, three drivers (Jim Robinson, Brian Robinson, and Garry Kaluzny) bid 2.5, Then Greg Lim bid 2.0, and Richard White bid only 0.5. The starting grid and their car stats:

The starting grid and car specs:
 # Driver (Car)                    Start/Accel/Decel/Top/Wear/Skill/Tires
11 Mike Cook (Camel Lotus)          100   40    60   140  5x   2x   hard
 3 Jack Beckman (Ferrari)            60   60    60   160  4x   2x   hard
12 Gary Sturgeon (John Player Lotus) 20   60    60   160  5x   2x   soft
 2 Jim Robinson (Williams)           60   60    60   160  4x   2x   hard
 5 Brian Robinson (Walker Racing)    60   60    40   140  5x   3x   soft
 9 Garry Kaluzny (McLaren)           60   60    40   140  5x   3x   soft
 7 Greg Lim (Motorola)               20   40    60   140  5x   4x   hard
 1 Richard White (Brabham)           60   40    40   140  5x   4x   hard

Start = Start Speed (in miles/hour); Accel = Acceleration (in mph); Decel = Deceleration (in mph); Top = Top Speed (in mph); Wear = # of Wear markers per lap raced; Skill = # of Skill markers per lap raced; Tires = hard or soft tires to begin the race. (Since the race was 3 laps, a car with 4x of Wear would receive 12 Wear markers to start the race (as an example).)

The starting grid for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The starting grid for the Monaco Grand Prix. Mike Cook is on the pole (yellow car); Jack Beckman is next to him (red car). 2nd row is Garry Sturgeon (black car) and Jim Robinson (white/blue/yellow car). Brian Robinson is the 3rd row, Garry Kaluzny is the 4th row, Greg Lim is the 5th row, and Richard White is the 6th row.

From the start, Mike Cook zoomed into the lead with his 100 mph start speed, followed closely by Jack Beckman’s Ferrari after Jack rolled dice to boost his start speed to 80 mph. Jim Robinson held 3rd, Brian Robinson pulled alongside Gary Sturgeon, then Garry Kaluzny had to slow down to 60 mph after boosting his start speed to 80 mph. Kaluzny rolled an unmodified start speed roll instead of using a wear (since he was on soft tires at the start, Kaluzny could have used a wear to boost his start speed), but rolled that unmodified start speed roll in hopes that he wouldn’t get the increased start speed. But, Kaluzny did get the increased start speed, then had to spend a wear to slow to 60 mph. Richard White passed Greg Lim at the start, due to Lim starting at only 20 mph, plus White boosted his start speed to 80 mph.

After the first move of the game.

After the first move of the game, Cook and Beckman jump into the lead.

After everyone got through the first corner at Ste. Devote, Jim Robinson passed Beckman for 2nd place going into the Massenet corner. Kaluzny also passed Brian Robinson for 5th place.

Heading into Massenet for the 1st time.

Heading into Massenet for the 1st time, Jim Robinson passes Beckman’s Ferrari to take 2nd place. Jim Robinson and Richard White look at the action on the track.

Then, heading into the sharp right-hand Mirabeau Haute corner, Sturgeon passed Beckman and took over 3rd place. Then Beckman fought back and passed both Sturgeon and J. Robinson to reclaim 2nd place going into the “Hairpin” (I still call it the Loews Hairpin, even though it has had many names over the years).

Into the "Hairpin" for the 1st time.

Into the “Hairpin” for the 1st time, Beckman reclaims 2nd place.

But then again, J. Robinson, Sturgeon, Kaluzny, and White all passed Beckman by the time the pack got through the Portier corner which led into the tunnel straightaway. J. Robinson pulled along Cook just before the Nouvelle Chicane, but then had to back off. Then Kaluzny made a pass of J. Robinson coming out of that chicane, and pulled alongside Cook as they were headed into the Tabac corner.

Through the Nouvelle Chicane.

Through the Nouvelle Chicane for the first time. Kaluzny (orange car) is alongside Cook (yellow car), then are Sturgeon (black car) and J. Robinson (white car), then the pack of Beckman (red), White (white/blue), B. Robinson (white/blue) and Lim (black/blue).

Through Tabac and the swimming pool series of corners, the pack pretty much stayed in the same order, except that White spun at Tabac.

Richard White spins at Tabac.

Richard White spins at Tabac.

White’s spin at Tabac didn’t hurt him too much, as only B. Robinson got past him there, but then Beckman’s Ferrari was able to force a pass on both B. Robinson and White just after exiting Tabac. Lim tried to force a pass on White after Tabac, but White slammed the door on Lim. Then at Rascasse, Cook and Kaluzny, got through a wee bit before J. Robinson and Sturgeon, and Cook and Kaluzny pulled into the pits for fresh tires. Meanwhile, White spun again, this time at Rascasse.

White spins at Rascasse

As the 1st lap is almost complete, White spins a 2nd time, this time at Rascasse, while Cook and Kaluzny pull off the track into the pits.

While Cook and Kaluzny were in the pits, the other six cars on the track all also pulled into the pits, making the first time in the CFR-Detroit racing series when all cars were in the track at the same time.

All eight cars are in the pits

At the end of the 1st lap, all eight cars are in the pits at the same time.

While in the pits at the end of the 1st lap, Cook, J. Robinson, Beckman, Lim,  and White all switched from hard to soft tires, while Kaluzny, Sturgeon, and B. Robinson all changed from soft to hard tires. This meant that all drivers had fulfilled their obligation to drive on both different tire compounds during the race. After the pit stops, the official order after the 1st lap was Cook, Kaluzny, Sturgeon, J. Robinson, B. Robinson, Lim, Beckman, and White.

Coming out of Ste. Devote on the 2nd lap, Beckman tried to force a pass on Lim, but was balked and had to slow by 40 mph. Beckman had just had to spend three wear chits in going through the Ste. Devote corner, and then spent 2 more wear to slow, meaning he used up 5 wear in failing that forced-pass manuever, of which he only came out of the pits with 12 wear, so he used 42% of his wear allotment on that one corner. That huge wear expenditure was to haunt the Ferrari driver for the balance of the race. Beckman was able to get by Lim and before they reached the Massenet corner, though.

Kaluzny plots how to catch Cook

Garry Kaluzny (orange shirt and car) plots how to catch Cook’s yellow Lotus heading into the Mirabeau Haute corner. Jack Beckman looks on in his red Ferrari shirt.

 

The drivers at the Monaco Grand Prix

The drivers at the Monaco Grand Prix (clockwise, from left): Mike Cook, Jim Robinson, Richard White, Greg Lim, Gary Sturgeon, Brian Robinson, Jack Beckman.

As the lead cars of Cook and Kaluzny rolled through Portier and into the tunnel straight, Kaluzny tried to over-rev his engine, losing top gear and thus limiting his top speed to 120 mph for the rest of the race (about 1.5 laps remaining of the 3-lap race). Kaluzny opted to only use a single -1 Skill chit, then rolled an 11. If he had used two -1 Skill markers, he would have passed that dice roll. However, you must declare your use of Skill markers before you roll the dice. (Also, in hindsight, when you roll dice in CFR, if you pass the roll, you are driving brilliantly, but if you fail the roll, you simply screwed up!)

Heading towards the chicane on the 2nd lap

Heading towards the chicane on the 2nd lap, Kaluzny’s orange McLaren-Honda fails a top speed dice roll, thus limiting his top speed to 120 mph for the rest of the race. At the moment, Kaluzny leads J. Robinson by 4 spaces and Sturgeon by 6 spaces. (Gary Sturgeon photo)

Farther back in the pack, Beckman passed an unmodified Chance roll through Portier to take 7th place from B. Robinson, but then when Beckman took another unmodified Chance roll at the Nouvelle Chicane, he spun, thus allowing B. Robinson to regain 7th place.

Past the swimming pool corners the 2nd time, Cook stretched out his lead over Kaluzny to 5 spaces after Rascasse. Sturgeon, J. Robinson, and Lim were closing in on Kaluzny, and White, Beckman, and B. Robinson had fallen further behind.

Through Rascasse on the 2nd lap

Through Rascasse on the 2nd lap, Cook’s yellow Lotus leads by an increasing margin.

As the 2nd lap was nearly complete, most of the cars pitted again, all of the pittees switching back to or else installing a new set of soft tires. The sole exception was Brian Robinson, who opted to stay out on the track on his hard tires (thus regaining two wear). The official order after two complete laps was Cook, Kaluzny, Sturgeon, Lim (driving his best race so far), J. Robinson, B. Robinson, White, and Beckman.

Early in the 3rd lap, Cook stretches his lead

Early in the 3rd lap, Cook stretches his lead to 8 spaces over Kaluzny. Sturgeon is right behind Kaluzny’s tailpipe, then other cars are strung out behind.

After the 2nd lap pit stops got sorted out, Cook was enjoying a comfortable lead, and looked to have an easy victory ahead of him. Kaluzny was trying to keep Sturgeon’s John Player Lotus behind him, and Lim and J. Robinson were battling for 4th place. Sturgeon finally got his Lotus past Kaluzny’s McLaren at Massenet, although Kaluzny stayed right with Sturgeon until they got around Portier, when Sturgeon’s superior top speed enabled him to motor away towards a sure 2nd place. Also, Lim had got by J. Robinson at Massenet, thus taking 4th place.

Cook leads through the chicane on the last lap

Cook leads through the chicane on the last lap as Sturgeon, Kaluzny, and Lim battle just before the chicane.

Through the last few corners, Cook won the race going away, enjoying an 11-space margin over Sturgeon at the finish line. Kaluzny managed to just nip Lim at the line, as Lim finished in the points, in 4th place, for the first time in his young driving career. Then Richard White came in 5th, having passed J. Robinson at the Rascasse corner. J. Robinson got the final points-paying position in 6th place. B. Robinson crossed the line in 7th, but Beckman crashed at the Anthony Nogues corner, the last corner on the track. Beckman’s crash was the first time a car failed to complete a race in the CFR-Detroit 2017-2018 season.

Cook's Lotus crosses the finish line in victory

Cook’s yellow Lotus crosses the finish line in victory with a healthy margin over Sturgeon’s black Lotus.

The points awarded at the Monaco Grand Prix: Cook 10; Sturgeon 6; Kaluzny 4; Lim 3; White 2, J. Robinson 1.

Top finishers lined up in the pits

Top finishers lined up in the pits: Cook Sturgeon, Kaluzny, Lim, White, and J. Robinson. B. Robinson’s car is still on the track, and the wrecker and ambulance attend to Beckman and his wrecked Ferrari. (Greg Lim photo)

The updated points standings after three (of eight) races:

Place Driver (Car)                     Points
  1   Garry Kaluzny (McLaren)            17
  2   Mike Cook (Camel Lotus)            16
  3T  Jack Beckman (Ferrari)             12
  3T  Gary Sturgeon (John Player Lotus)  12
  5   Richard White (Brabham)             8
  6   Jim Landis (Benetton)               5
  7   Brian Robinson (Walker Racing)      4
  8   Greg Lim (Motorola)                 3
  9   Jim Robinson (Williams)             1
 10   Russ Herschler (Minardi)            0

The next race, The Belgian Grand Prix (at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit) of the 2017-2018 CFR-Detroit racing season will be on Friday, December 8th, at Pandemonium Games & Hobbies at 6033 Middlebelt Road in Garden City, Michigan. Race time is 7:00 pm.

Making a 1:64 Scale Track — Part 2 — Marking the Track on the Sheet

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

In this blog post, we’ll tape our sheet to the table, then lay out the track sections again. Read Part 1 of Making a 1:64 Scale Track to see how we arrived here. Note that you can make a similar track for other scales of cars. If you use something like 1:43 scale, you would have to adjust the size of the spaces (and a full track probably wouldn’t fit on a sheet). You could of course make large tracks on foam-core board, or other material. Part of the reason we went with 1:64 scale cars originally is that in the 1980s, when we starting making the large tracks, Hot Wheels cars were the easiest cars to find. We also found that most of Avalon Hill’s Accessory Pack tracks would fit on a sheet at 1:64 scale.

So, I finished washing and drying my twin bed flat sheet, then stretched it out on my ping-pong table, and then taped it so it would stay fairly tight so it would avoid wrinkling while I marked it up. I laid out the former track sections on the sheet, but the outline just didn’t look quite right to me.  In particular, some of the corners on the real track were sharp, 90-degree turns, while the templates I used for 90-degree turns were more gradual and rounded. So, I then printed out the actual track file using the Acorn program (from Flying Meat Software), then taped some sections together, then laid them on the table on top of the former outline. That original track plan is with the red stripe down its middle.

The new track outline is on top of the old track outline.

The new track outline is on top of the old track outline.

It was very apparent that the new outline seemed much smaller than the former outline.

The new track outline is smaller than the old track outline.

The new track outline is smaller than the old track outline.

The former outline that I used was based on templates, where all of the straight pieces had spaces that were 3″ long by 1.75″ wide, and the template corner spaces had been printed so my 1:64 cars would fit on them without encroaching on the spaces of other cars. When I printed the actual track outline (with the red stripe), I printed it at 775% of my original file’s size. That made most of the straight spaces 3″ long, but it also meant that the corner spaces were too small. If you had more than one car in a corner area, the cars would interfere with each other. Since you can only paint the track once, it is better to resolve any issues in this, the planning stage! Naturally, I had to cut out these new track sections and tape some of them together with clear cellophane tape. Note that I cut close to the track outline as eventually I will trace around the track outline with a pencil. If I just placed the printed pages on the sheet, I would have to cut them later before I could trace the edges, and that would then put pieces out of alignment.

Now, of course, the table top was too cluttered, so I picked up all of the template sections and left just the new track outline pieces on the table.

Track outline sections.

Track outline sections.

I then measured from the different edges of the track, and tried to center the sections as much as possible. This is not only for aesthetics, but for practicality, as when playing Championship Formula Racing, each driver needs to lay out their cards without laying them on the track. While you should try to leave an open “border” around all edges of the track, that won’t be possible with some tracks.

Measuring from the edges to center the track on the sheet.

Measuring from the edges to center the track on the sheet.

I then centered the pieces, and placed them together to see how it looked.

The centered track.

The centered track.

Now comes the task of checking how the 1:64 scale cars fit. Get out your scale cars and see how they fit on actual parts of the track outline.

Cars fit on the straight sections.

Cars fit on the straight sections.

It looks like the straight sections are long enough for my Greenlight IndyCars to fit. I also tested the sections with my old Hot Wheels open-wheel race cars that are the same length as the newer Greenlight cars. Note that the printed track is narrower than I will paint the finished track. The proportion of the rectangles for a poster-board size track is different than I want for my large track. When I design a poster-board size track, I make the straight spaces 1″ long by 0.5″ wide. That usually works well with small race cars. However, for the large track, I make spaces that are 3″ long by 1.75″ wide. That means that when I trace around the edge of the finished track layout, I will have to do a little more marking.

Now, to check the fit in a corner. Oh-oh! The corner spaces are too small!

Cars don't fit in the corners.

Cars don’t fit in the corners.

While the #3 car in the picture above fits on the inside space, the two cars on the outside of the corner (which is two spaces long) don’t fit into their spaces. This means I will have to allow for more space. In years past, I would just move the straight track sections a little and “fudge” or estimate the new corner area. I would put a clean piece of paper under the corner area, and pencil in where the lines should go. But this time, I decided to go back and reprint the corner sections. I printed the corners at 900% (instead of 775%) of original this time, and they printed just about right.

But before I reprinted the corners, I substituted the template pieces.

Cars on template sections.

Cars on template sections.

Using the template sections, I can see that the cars will fit. Of course, by allowing for a longer corner section in this area of the track (this is turns 1 and 2, just past the start-finish line), it will affect the alignment of other parts of the track.

Another part of the track where the cars don't fit.

Another part of the track where the cars don’t fit.

I also found a part of the track that was in a “U” shape also didn’t fit the cars well, not for the curvy-“straight” sections nor in the actual numbered corner spaces. So I had to re-print that entire section. And even after I printed that section at 900%, some of the spaces were still too short. So, I spliced in a couple of pieces of paper to “expand” that section slightly, and also used a permanent marker to mark new lines between the spaces.

Splices added and spaces re-marked in the "U" section.

Splices added and spaces re-marked in the “U” section.

After checking all of the sections so that the cars would fit the spaces (particularly in the corners), and rechecking the track alignment (also  re-centering the track sections on the sheet), it is time to tape down the track sections so they don’t move when you mark off the outline of the track. I just use small pieces of masking tape to tack down the track sections. I’ll usually just use four small pieces of tape per track section to ensure that section doesn’t move when I mark its outline on the sheet.

Taping the sections of the track.

Taping the sections of the track.

Note that the above track sections were printed at two different scales, which is why they don’t line up along their outside edge. Since I am using the inside border of the track as a reference, that is not critical.

Now is the time to mark the outline of the track. Use a pencil for the “first pass” as if you make any mistakes, you can easily correct them! At first, I only marked off the inside edge of the track sections, as that was my “reference” point. Some of the printed track sections that I used for laying out the track were not wide enough, so I had to make sure that I marked the track as wide as it needs to be for each section. Remember that I am making each space 1.75″ wide, so if the track is “2-wide” (meaning the track is two spaces wide) in an area, then the total track width is 3.5″. (Sorry, I didn’t warn you there would be math involved in painting a large-scale track!) If a track section is “3-wide” (three lanes side by side), then the total track width is 5.25″ in that area. I use the straight edge to check the width of a section before marking the outside lines of the track.

Using a ruler to check the track width.

Using a ruler to check the track width.

In the above picture, I am making pencil “tick” marks where the 5.25″ outer edge of the track will be for this 3-wide section. I had to do this because of the varying scale of my template pieces. Even if you have perfectly sized templates, you should check the width of your track before masking and painting it. After making tick marks in an area, I used a pencil to “connect the dots (ticks).” When I was satisfied with the pencil inside and outside borders, then I went over the pencil marks with a permanent marker.

Outlining the track with a permanent marker.

Outlining the track with a permanent marker.

When the outlining was completed, I removed the paper templates. I removed the small pieces of tape from the templates, then stacked them carefully out of the way, in order, as I will need them again to aid in actually painting the lines for the spaces on the track (see Part 3 of this series).

The completed permanent marker outline of the track.

The completed permanent marker outline of the track.

Note that there is a pit lane to the left. Although Championship Formula Racing doesn’t use a formal “pit lane,” we are thinking of using our older Speed Circuit era pit stop rules, and we would need to drive down pit lane. I felt it would be easier to add the pit lane at this time, rather than to try to add it at a later time, when I would have to re-mask the track and paint part of it again. Towards the right side of the picture I also made an adjustment so a 3-wide straightaway section could blend into a 2-wide corner.

The track outline has been masked with tape.

The track outline has been masked with tape.

Next, we will need to cover all parts of the sheet with newspapers (or whatever you have on hand) and then tape it down to the inside and outside track outline, and then we’ll start painting. That process will be continued in Part 3 – Painting the track.

Championship Formula Racing demo races, July 1, 2017

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

On Saturday, July 1, 2017, I ran four more demo races of Championship Formula Racing, trying to attract more regular racers for our upcoming season of races (that should begin in September). I ran two races at the monthly first Saturday boardgame Meetup group at the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan, then later in the day I ran two more races at the Warriors 3 game store in Wayne, Michigan.

I got to the Canton library just before they opened the meeting room for us boardgamers at noon. Meeting me there were Greg Lim and Jim Robinson. We quickly set up four folding tables together so we could place one of our large scale race tracks on that group of tables. I had just borrowed four more large tracks from Richard White on Thursday, two nights previous.

For our first race, we had eight racers, and we raced on the Monza, Italy track. This large track is based on the mid-1980s Monza track from Avalon Hill’s Accessory Pack tracks from that era. It has not been modified for the newer Monza changes. But we all race on the same track, n’est-ce pas?

Racing on the Monza, Italy track at the Canton Public Library.

Racing on the Monza, Italy track at the Canton Public Library. (Greg Lim photo)

After we completed the first race at Monza, I asked folks if they wanted to race the 2nd race on a different track, but they wanted to race the Monza track again. One of the drivers from the first race dropped out, as he wanted to play some other board games at the library, but we added two other drivers, so the 2nd race had nine drivers. That was the most drivers we have had (so far) for our demo races.

The last lap of the 2nd Monza race at the Canton library.

The last lap of the 2nd Monza race at the Canton library. Brian Robinson (center, in the gray t-shirt) comtemplates how he can win the race from his then 2nd place on the track.

Brian Robinson won that 2nd Monza race. Brian is relatively new to the Speed Circuit/Championship Formula Racing type games, but he is driving like an old pro. I told him at the end of the evening after the last race at Warriors 3 that I no longer considered him a rookie, but an “old pro” driver.

After that 2nd race at the Canton library, Greg and Jim and I went to a local fast food place for some dinner. (If you’re going to drive “fast” in racing games, you should eat “fast” food, eh?) Then we got to the Warriors 3 game store in Wayne, Michigan, in plenty of time to arrange four folding tables together to make room to set up another large track. I set up the Silverstone, England track.

The Silverstone, England track.

The Silverstone, England track.

While we were setting up the 1:64 scale race cars on the track while we were waiting for some other racers to arrive, a three-year old boy, Thomas, came over to our table. He was determined to play with our 1:64 scale cars! We first moved the cars from one side of the table to the other, but then Thomas tried to climb on top of the table to get to the cars. I was afraid of Thomas falling off the table and injuring himself. Finally, though, Thomas’ father called him away from us. The father was playing in a different game in a different area of the same large gaming room. Anyway, we were relieved, as our 1:64 scale cars are definitely not toys, and would not survive without damage from being handled by a three-year-old!

Racing on the Silverstone track.

Racing on the Silverstone track. Garry Kaluzny in the red shirt at left. (Greg Lim photo)

It should be noted that our race on the Silverstone track was also based on the mid-1980s configuration of that real-life track. In CFR game terms, I built my car to have 60 mph Acceleration and Deceleration, and a 180 mph Top Speed. You can pretty much drive either 120 mph or 180 mph every turn on this track configuration. Centered in the picture above is Ian, a young guy visiting the Detroit area from his home in Kentucky. Although he had never played CFR (nor Speed Circuit), he pretty quickly grasped the strategy to use. His downfall was taking too many early chances on cornering, and a spinout dropped him back in the race. If he wouldn’t have spun, though, he would have been a tough competitor.

After the Silverstone race was complete, we had time to race once more. We switched to the Monaco track for that last race of the evening. We had the same six drivers from the Silverstone race competing.

Half a lap left to race on the Monte Carlo track at Monaco.

Half a lap left to race on the Monte Carlo track at Monaco.

Ian took the early lead from the pole position, although I was hot on his heels from my front row position. The first time at the Casino/Station/Loews hairpin turn, I got the inside position from Ian, meaning I got to move first the next turn, so I took over the lead.

Jack stands to move the cars, while Garry tries to stay ahead of Brian's car on the last lap at Monaco.

Jack stands to move the cars, while Garry tries to stay ahead of Brian’s car on the last lap at Monaco. (Greg Lim photo)

On the last lap, I had to hold back Brian’s car. With about a half-lap left to race, I had only 3 Wear remaining, while Brian had 7 Wear. At the finish line, Brian pulled alongside my car, but I nipped him by a nose at the end. Whew! I had to make two cornering Chance dice rolls late in the race, using my two -3 Skill chits.

Although the day was long, I believe everyone had fun racing in the different races. We added another six names to our CFR email list. We now have about 30 names on the list, but not all of them will race in our upcoming season. Some folks, such as Brian, have been using the frequent demo races to gain a lot of experience in racing CFR. When the season starts in September, I expect some close competition!

We will have another demo race on July 7, 2017, at Imperium Games in Wixom. Imperium Games used to be Flat Land Games, but they had a recent change of ownership. That demo race will start at 7:00 pm, and will be a 3-lap race. All of the demo races on July 1 were only 2-lap races, as they were intended to be used for teaching the game mechanics. Shorter races mean you can run more races in a day, plus if someone were to crash out of a race, they wouldn’t have to wait as long to get back into the next race. Surprisingly, though, every racer (including me!) finished every race, in spite of multiple chances being taken by rolling dice!

Check our CFR-Detroit web page for more info about upcoming Championship Formula Racing races in the Detroit, Michigan, metro area.

Posted by Garry

Championship Formula Racing/Speed Circuit

Friday, June 9th, 2017

I was first exposed to the Avalon Hill version of Speed Circuit in the late 1970s, at a Metro Detroit Gamers MichiCon game convention. Someone (I can’t remember who) had made a very large scale track and used 1:64 scale cars. There were a number of us playing that game that day, but I don’t remember anything else about that race.

Speed Circuit large-scale track

Speed Circuit played on a hand-made large-scale track at MichiCon, circa 1978.

I then bought the Avalon Hill version of Speed Circuit, but couldn’t find any other folks to play it with. It seems none of my gaming friends were interested in auto racing games. About that same time, I played USAC Auto Racing at local MDG game cons. I believe it was Don Walker who made a large scale Indy 500 track and used painted Mattel Hot Wheels cars. Don stopped running those events, so then I built a large scale Indy 500 track and bought and painted some Hot Wheels cars, and ran USAC Auto Racing at cons a couple of more times.

Then in early 1984, I took the regular sized board game of Speed Circuit to the Michigan Gaming Center in Ferndale, Michigan (it was on Woodward, just north of Nine Mile Rd.), one day. Interestingly, several other folks wanted to play it. After we got done racing, somebody suggested that we should make it a regular game. Then we proposed a series of races, like the real-life Formula One race series. We posted a flyer at the Michigan Gaming Center that looked sort of like this:

Speed Circuit flyer from 1985.

Speed Circuit flyer from 1985.

A number of other guys then contacted me, and after having another demo race, we started our 15-race season on March 16, 1984, racing the Brazilian Grand Prix around the Jacarepagua track. Tom Kane took the first pole position, and was leading the entire race, only to have Tony Ploucha pass him at the last corner, and then Tony won the race! I managed to finish 3rd after qualifying 11th (out of 13 racers), mostly due to retirements of other drivers.

That first Speed Circuit season in 1984 was won by Ray Eifler with 67 points (we used the 9-6-4-3-2-1 scoring system at that time). Richard White was 2nd with 62 points for the season, and Steve Zack was 3rd with 35 points. Race winners were Ray Eifler (5 victories), Richard White (2 victories), Andy Balent, Mark Hesskamp, Tom Kane, Tony Ploucha, Jim Robinson, Jeff Schwartz, Don Woodward, and Steve Zack. I managed to finish in 9th place with 19 points. We had a total of 26 different drivers during that season, and we averaged 12.8 drivers per race. The most drivers at a race was 17, at both Italy and Brands Hatch, and the fewest was 8, at Detroit.

At that time, we were using the various Avalon Hill Accessory Pack tracks, in standard board-game size. We were also using the plastic cars from USAC Auto Racing that I had painted like the real Formula One cars of the mid-1980s.

Avalon Hill's Silverstone track.

Avalon Hill’s Silverstone, England, track from Accessory Pack I.

Starting in 1985, I had to make some tracks that were not available from Avalon Hill. In particular, I made the downtown Detroit, Michigan track:

Detroit Grand Prix track.

Playing Speed Circuit on the 1983-1988 version of the downtown Detroit Grand Prix track.

Avalon Hill had a Detroit Grand Prix track you could buy, but it was of the 1982 course that had the hairpin turn at East Jefferson going into Chrysler Drive. The west end of the track wasn’t totally accurate, either, for either 1982 or for years 1983-1988. I got data for tracks from Road & Track magazine, but then I started buying the Autocourse books, which had much more detail about the races.

Autocourse 1983.

Autocourse 1983.

It was also evident that playing on small tracks made it hard for everyone to sit around the table and be able to see which of the miniscule cars was theirs. So, we started making large-scale tracks on bedsheets, using 1:64 scale Hot Wheels cars. Richard White made most of the large tracks, and also made most of the cars. I helped cut off a few sidepods and wings, but Richard did a magnificent job of molding new sidepods, engine cowlings, and made new wings. He then painted the cars to look like the real Formula One Ferraris, McLarens, etc. Richard even painted the driver’s helmets to look like the helmets of the real-life drivers. This was back in the era when you couldn’t buy “collectible” cars that were molded and painted like the real cars.

So then we eventually started playing on the large-scale tracks, with the larger cars, and it was much easier to have a large number of folks sit around the table and see the track and where their car was on the track.

Suzuka, Japan, track.

Large scale Suzuka, Japan, track.

Alas, I can’t find any pictures of our old Speed Circuit races using the large tracks, so the above picture is of one of the large-scale tracks that was made in our Speed Circuit days. We are using that track with Championship Formula Racing, though. You can see some of the CFR driver and speed cards on the table.

Championship Formula Racing

I ran the Speed Circuit campaign from 1984 until 1991. The Detroit-area campaign continued on without me for a few more years, then sort of faded away. Then, when I was GMing the Gutshot game at MDG’s WinterCon 2017, I met Jack Beckman. He was playing a Formula One style game with someone else, and as I am interested in auto racing board games, I started talking with Jack. He told me that a new game had just been published, Championship Formula Racing (henceforth known as CFR) from Jolly Roger Games, and that I should check it out as it was just like Speed Circuit (SC). Of course, when we played SC, we extended the rules and called our version of the game Advanced Speed Circuit (ASC). I downloaded the CFR rules, and while reading them, I thought, “these are almost exactly our old ASC rules!”

Championship Formula Racing.

Championship Formula Racing.

I exchanged some emails with the creator of CFR, Douglas Schulz, and he said he was given a copy of some “advanced” Speed Circuit rules from someone in the Baltimore area in the late 1980s. I believe they were a copy of our Detroit area ASC rules, as I had given copies to some folks in the Baltimore area when I attended an Origins game con there in the late-1980s.

There are a few differences between ASC and CFR. For one thing, CFR uses a simplified qualifying procedure where you “bid” some of your Wear and Skill markers; the higher bidders starting in front of the lower bidders. Also, we had used an attribute called “-2 DRM” and CFR uses “Skill” markers, where you can pre-designate using Skill to modify dice rolls. In our ASC days, we had actual qualifying sessions that were somewhat time consuming, but ensured that the better (or luckier!) drivers would start in the front.

CFR also uses different (optional) rules for pit stops than we did. In CFR, you just move your car off the track and into the pits, whereas in ASC you had to drive down pit lane and into your numbered pit stall. Probably the most interesting rule in CFR are the hard tires/soft tires rule (which is used with the optional pit stops). If using the pit stop rules, your car will only start with about 40% to 60% of the Wear it would have received if you weren’t using the pit stop rules. If you are on hard tires, your car will regain a few Wear every time it completes a lap. But the coolest thing (for us maniac drivers) are the soft tires. Soft tires will enable you to use Wear for some things that you would have had to roll dice for. In particular, if you are on soft tires and are 60 mph over the speed limit in a corner, you can use 3 Wears instead of having to use 2 Wears and roll a Chance (to see if you might spin out or crash).

Doug has also designed a number of tracks, especially newer tracks that didn’t exist in Speed Circuit’s heyday, and they are available as 8.5″ x 11″ printouts (downloadable from the Lucid Phoenix web page). I believe that Doug has given too many tracks “three-wide” sections of track (and the Monte Carlo track that comes with the board game of CFR is way overly simplified), but all-in-all, Doug has produced a lot of good stuff for folks who want to race cars in a table-top board game! I believe Doug’s philosophy is to produce playable games, whereas our dedicated ASC group were more into an accurate simulation of tracks.

CFR Nurburgring track.

CFR Nurburgring track.

We have a web page for our new local races using the CFR rules. Anyone who wants to race with us in the Metro Detroit, Michigan area, is welcome to attend our races. We have a demo race on Friday, June 9th, 2017, at 7:00 pm, at RIW Hobbies & Games in Livonia, Michigan. We plan on having races in several different game stores in the metro Detroit area, to even out the traveling miles and times for folks. This is so west-siders won’t always have to drive to the east side of town, or vice versa.

–Posted by Garry

How I got into playing D&D (in the 1970s)

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

I guess I’ve always been a board-gamer. I played various “kid” style board games when I was truly a kid, then in the early 1960s (when I was 10 years old) a friend of mine bought the board game “D-Day” from the Avalon Hill company. Wow. What a difference from other games. Most games (even the early cheesy Milton Bradley “war” games) had one side move one piece, then the other side moved a piece, etc, but with the D-Day game one side moved as many of their pieces as they wanted, then did all of their attacks, then the other side took a similar turn.

My friends and I then bought just about every Avalon Hill game there was. We wore out a couple copies of Blitzkrieg by playing it so much. Starting around 1970 or ’71, we went to local board game conventions (gamecons) and played all sorts of games. Then in the mid-1970s, I became aware (at the gamecons) that some folks were playing a new kind of game, a role-playing game named Dungeons & Dragons.

Original Dungeons & Dragons box cover.

Original Dungeons & Dragons box cover.

While at one of the local gamecons, I bought the original D&D rules booklets (1974 printing). There were three small booklets in the original set: Men & Magic; Monsters & Treasure; and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures; plus a set of Reference Sheets. I also later bought the add-on booklets Greyhawk and Blackmoor (May & November 1978 printings, respectively). The booklets said “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures.” There were two problems, though, as none of my game-playing friends wanted to play D&D, not to mention the rules were sort of weird to try to figure out on your own.

I did get an introduction to playing D&D at the local gamecons, but I didn’t spend much time at all playing D&D at the cons as I was more into various board games at the time. So basically I just set aside the rule books for a few years.

Then, in August 1979, a teenager named James Dallas Egbert III mysteriously disappeared from the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Some folks who are old enough will remember the story, but if you don’t know about it, click the link above for more information. It seems that young Mr. Egbert (who was enrolled at MSU at age 16) would sometimes play Dungeons & Dragons, and the game’s name suddenly entered popular culture as various news organizations were trying to make a link to Egbert’s disappearance while “live playing” D&D in steam tunnels beneath the MSU campus. While Mr. Egbert’s life turned out to be a tragedy in that he commited suicide in August 1980, it did put D&D into the public eye.

Suddenly, in late 1979, all of my friends who had not formerly been interested in playing D&D started asking me about the game. “You have that game, right? How about showing us how the game plays?” I told them that nobody gets to watch others play the game, but they must play the game themselves if they wanted to find out anything about it. By that time I also owned the D&D “Basic Set” of rules that were a lot easier to decipher than the original rules booklets. It also came with module B1: In Search of the Unknown.

D&D Basic Set cover, 1977

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set box cover from 1977.

I also had just purchased the first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, the Monster Manual, the Players Handbook, and the Dungeon Masters Guide (which had just come out), but as I hadn’t yet had time to read through all of those AD&D books, I decided to run a dungeon for my friends using the Basic Set rules (with the “blue” rulebook).

Unfortunately, the date is lost to history, but sometime in late 1979 (I would guess it was September, shortly after James Egbert had disappeared) I got together on a Friday evening after work with several friends, and we played D&D. Naturally, I was the Dungeon Master (DM) as I was the only one who knew anything about the game. We spent a little time generating their first characters, then down they went into the dungeon!

On that first Friday evening of playing D&D, we got started around 8 pm and finished around midnight. I figured that would be the end of things, as now my friends had finally experienced D&D, and I had blooded myself as a first-time DM. But instead, at midnight, the players were raving and excited! “When can we play again!?” they all clamored. I answered, “How about next weekend?” They all shouted, “Can’t we play any sooner? Like tomorrow?” The following day was a Saturday, so I said, “OK, we can get together again in the evening.” But they wanted to play sooner, like 10 am! We finally bargained on a starting time of noon on Saturday.

So we got together again at noon on Saturday, and played until midnight. By now, it seems the initial adventurers were totally hooked on the game. At midnight on Saturday, once again they all pleaded to play again the following day, on Sunday. So we played again on Sunday, from around noon to 6 pm. After that I said we should only play once a weekend.

After that, we did play D&D often, averaging one session per week for about two years. I also found time to start some other groups of players in some other dungeons as I had added to my store-bought modules with such as The Village of Hommlet. I also quickly started making my own modules as I found the players were also buying the few available ready-made dungeon modules so they would know what to expect.

Eventually, though, I started going to college in January 1982, and with all of the homework I had (I was also working 40 hours a week) I found I didn’t have time to adequately prepare adventures for the players. I then stepped down as our group’s DM, and let one of the other experienced players take over as DM. Unfortunately, the campaign just wasn’t the same, and we all drifted away from playing.

And for more than 30 years, I never went back to playing D&D until just after Christmas 2014.

— The Dungeon Master